Enterprise software such as CRMs have been around for quite some time. The thing about old enterprise software (sometime referred as legacy systems) is that they look old and make you feel old. With the advent of the mobile-first solutions era, these enterprise software looks centuries old. However, the question is, how did these enterprise software avoid all the paradigm shifts we have witnessed in recent years?
Before getting started with our enterprise software journey, let’s bust a couple of myths.
- Myths: It is impossible to design a user-friendly enterprise system because problems are so important and complex.
- Facts: Following a user-centered or problem-centered approach, we can build a user-friendly enterprise level software. Examples: Basecamp and Yammer.
- Myths: Enterprise software need to collect all sorts of data for end-users, thus they can’t be efficient.
- Facts: An effort to minimize data collection processes to a limited set of fields can result in an efficient enterprise software. Example: Modern day website sign-up pages are a good example of limiting data collection fields.
The legacy of legacy systems
There are many reasons why several huge enterprises are still using legacy systems:
- 1. Legacy systems are effective, they get things done.
- 2. These systems are often cheap. For example, a legacy system may offer complete Enterprise.
- 3. Resources Planning (ERP) solutions in a single package and only requires a yearly license renewal.
- 4. Once installed, businesses hesitate to replace it, because of factors like workflow changes, Business Process Reengineering (BPR) cost, change resistance and trust factor.
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Note: Business process reengineering (BPR) is the analysis and redesign of workflows within enterprises in order to optimize processes.
Buyers are not the users
The people who make the buying decision for an enterprise software are not the ones who use it on an everyday basis. Most of the technology buyers are more concerned about stability, security, deployment, support, and other features. However, a recent trend is that end-users are getting involved in searching, selecting, and recommending enterprise software as per their needs. This has forced a change in enterprise software development companies too, who are focusing more on creating user-friendly and user-centered enterprise software. Box and Asana are two prime examples.
Designing for Complexity
A simple and clean design for a complex need may not be the best solution. In his book “Living with Complexity”, Donald Norman described this concept with an example of a coffee-machine. A coffee-maker with a single button is not an efficient and effective design, because a single button does not fully reflect all types of input a coffee-maker might need. Thus, making the user interaction difficult.
Creating a mental model
The first step in designing for complexity is to create a mental model. A mental model is a person’s understanding of how a thing works. So, an enterprise software design can be constructed on people’s understanding of a particular task. For example, the tabbed document interface was designed on traditional card indexes. Apart from design elements, users can form mental models within an enterprise software through experience, training, and instructions.
Reducing steps in a process
Enterprise software developer needs to focus more on user-centered and problem-centered approach to create efficient and beautiful enterprise software. Even small changes can result in simpler work processes. For example, reducing First Name, Middle Name, and Last Name fields into a single Full Name may mean a lot to an end user who repeat this process thousand times a day.
Last year in July, Apple joined hands with IBM to build more than 100 enterprise apps. With Apple’s innovative design practices, one can hope to see some beautifully designed enterprise software. The future of enterprise software is bright, it just might take us longer to get there. At Cygnis Media, we are currently creating a couple of beautiful and efficient enterprise softwares. To learn more about the projects or to make further inquiries for a similar project please click here.